MINNEAPOLIS – A few years ago, Daunte Wright was talking to a high school mentor about what to do if he was pulled over by police.
“Make sure your hands are on top of the steering wheel, don’t reach for anything,” Jonathan Mason told him, given the long history of Black men shot by police during traffic stops.
“He would always say, ‘Man, why we gotta do all that just for people not to kill us?'” Mason recalled this week, days after the 20-year-old Wright was killed by a police officer in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. He’d been pulled over for a minor traffic violation on a Sunday afternoon.
The killing set off days of protests and unrest in the little city, as civil rights activists and thousands of demonstrators demanded justice and police accountability. The suburb’s police station is now barricaded behind concrete barriers and tall metal fencing, watched over by police in riot gear and National Guard soldiers with armored vehicles and assault rifles.
Behind it all was the sudden death of a skinny, smiling young man who loved making people laugh and who, after becoming a father in his teens, relished the role of doting young dad, according to his family and friends.
A family photo shows a beaming Wright holding his son, Daunte Jr., at his first birthday party. Another shows Wright with a COVID-19 face mask, his son wearing a bib with the inscription, “ALWAYS HUNGRY.”
On Wednesday, some of his extended family came to the intersection where he was shot, carefully rearranging the lawn of flowers that had been left there in his memory or sobbing as they sat in the grass.
“He had a 2-year-old son that’s not going to be able to play basketball with him. He had sisters and brothers that he loved so much,” his mother, Katie Wright, said Tuesday on “Good Morning America.”